Follow parents’ example:
When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”
When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”
Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”
Then Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”
So Abimelech gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” – Genesis 26:7-11
Isaac was afraid that the men in Gerar would kill him to get his beautiful wife, Rebekah. So he lied, claiming that Rebekah was his sister. Where did he learn that trick? He may have known about the actions of his father, Abraham (see 12:10-14 and 20:1-4). Parents help shape the world’s future by the way they shape their children’s values. The first step towards helping children live rightly is for the parents to live rightly. Your actions are often copied by those closest to you. What kind of example are you setting for your children?
Significance of their names:
Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” – Genesis 29:32
Today parents usually give their children names that sound good or have sentimental appeal. But the Old Testament portrays a more dynamic use of names. Parents often chose names that reflected the situation at the time of the birth. They sometimes hoped their children would fulfil the meaning of the names given them. Later the parents could look back and see if their grown children had lived up to their names. Sometimes a person’s name was changed because his or her character and name did not match. This happened to Jacob (“he grasped the heel”, figuratively, “he deceives”), whose name was changed to Israel (“he struggles with God”). Jacob’s character had changed to the point that he was no longer seen as a deceiver , but as a God-honouring man.
Teaching them to follow God:
…that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD. – – Exodus 10:2
God told Moses that his miraculous experiences with Pharaoh should be retold to his descendants. What stories Moses had to tell! Living out one of the greatest dramas in biblical history, he witnessed events few people would ever see. It is important to tell our children about God’s work in our past and to help them see what he is doing right now. What are the turning points in your life where God intervened? What is God doing for you now? Your stories will form the foundations of your children’s belief in God.
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up – – Deuteronomy 6:7
The Hebrews were extremely successful at making religion an integral part of life. The reason for their success was that religious education was life-oriented, not information-oriented. They used the context of daily life to teach about God. The key to teaching your children to love God is stated simply and clearly in these verses. If you want your children to follow God, you must make God a part of your everyday experiences. You must teach your children diligently to see God in all aspects of life, not just those that are church related.
Then Moses commanded them: “At the end of every seven years, in the year for cancelling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble the people – – men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns – – so that they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law. Their children, who do not know this law, must hear it and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” – – Deuteronomy 31:10-13
The laws were to be read to the whole assembly so that everyone, including the children, could hear them. Every seven years the entire nation would gather together and listen as a priest [meaning Give It To Them] read the law to them. There were no books, Bibles, or newspapers to spread God’s word, so the people had to rely on word of mouth and an accurate memory. Memorisation was an important part of worship because if everyone knew the law, ignorance would be no excuse for breaking it. To fulfil God’s purpose and will in our lives, we need the content and substance of his word in our hearts and minds. For the Hebrews, this process began in childhood. Teaching our children and new believers should be one of our top priorities. Our finest teachers, best resources, and most careful thought should be directed towards showing young believers how to follow God in all life’s situations. *
Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – – for his had done it. – – Psalm 22:30-31
Unborn generations are depending on our faithfulness today. As we teach our children about the Lord, so they will teach their children and their children’s children. If we fail to tell our children about the Lord, we may well be breaking the chain of God’s influence in generations to come. We must view our children and all the young people we meet as God’s future leaders. If we are faithful in opportunities today, we may well be affecting the future.
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children – – Psalm 78:5
God commanded that the stories of his mighty acts in Israel’s history and his laws be passed on from parents to children. This shows the purpose and importance of religious education – – to help each generation obey God and set their hope on him. It is important to keep children from repeating the same mistakes as their ancestors [i.e. an area the devil waits for]. What are you doing to pass on the history of God’s work to the next generation?
How they are affected by the sins of their parents:
…maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” – – Exodus 34:7
Why would sins affect grandchildren and great-grandchildren? This is no arbitrary punishment. Children still suffer for the sins of their parents. Consider child abuse or alcoholism, for example. While these sins are obvious, sins like selfishness and greed can be passed on as well. The dire consequences of sin are not limited to the individual family member. Be careful not to treat sin casually, but repent and turn from it. The sin may cause you little pain now, but it could sting in a most tender area of your life later – – your children and grandchildren.
Moses had asked to see God’s glory (33:18), and this was God’s response. What is God’s glory? It is his character, his nature, his way of relating to his creatures. Notice that God did not give Moses a vision of his power and majesty, but rather of his love. God’s glory is revealed in his mercy, grace, compassion, faithfulness, forgiveness, and justice. God’s love and mercy are truly wonderful, and we benefit from them. We can respond and give glory to God when our characters resemble his.
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him. I will set my face against that man and I will cut him off from his people; for by giving his children to Molech, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name. – – Leviticus 20:1-3
Sacrificing children to the gods was a common practice in ancient religions. The Ammonites, Israel’s neighbours, made child sacrifice to Molech (their national god) a vital part of their religion. They saw this as the greatest gift they could offer to ward off evil or appease angry gods. God made it clear that this practice was detestable and strictly forbidden. In Old Testament times as well as New, his character made human sacrifice unthinkable. (1) Unlike the pagan gods, he is a God of love, who does not need to be appeased (Exodus 34:6). (2) He is a God of life, who prohibits murder and encourages practices that lead to health and happiness (Deuteronomy 30:15, 16). (3) He is God of the helpless, who shows special concern for children (Psalm 72:4). (4) He is a God of unselfishness, who instead of demanding blood gives his life for others (Isaiah 53:4, 5).
“When a young woman still living in her father’s house makes a vow to the LORD or binds herself by a pledge and her father hears about her vow or pledge but says nothing to her, then all her vows and every pledge by which she bound herself will stand. But if her father forbids her when he hears about it, none of her vows or the pledges by which she bound herself will stand; the LORD will release her because her father has forbidden her. – – Numbers 30:3-8
Under Israelite law, parents could overrule their children’s vows. This helped young people avoid the consequences of making foolish or costly commitments. From this law comes an important principle for both parents and children. Young people still living at home should seek their parents’ help when they make decisions. A parent’s experience could save a child from a serious mistake. Parents, however, should exercise their authority with caution and grace. They should let children learn from their mistakes while protecting them from disaster.
When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. – – 1 Samuel 8:1-3
As an old man, Samuel appointed his sons to be judges over Israel in his place. But they turned out to be corrupt, must like Eli’s sons (2:12). We don’t know why Samuel’s sons went wrong, but we do know that Eli was held responsible for his own sons’ corruption (2:29-34).
It is impossible to know if Samuel was a bad parent. His children were old enough to be on their own. We must be careful not to blame ourselves for the sins of our children. On the other hand, parenthood is an awesome responsibility, and nothing his more important than moulding and shaping our children’s lives.
If your grown children are not following God, realise that you can’t them any longer. Don’t blame yourself for something that is no longer your responsibility. But if your children are still in your care, know that what you do and teach can profoundly affect your children and lasts a lifetime.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honour your father and mother” – – which is the first commandment with a promise – – “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. – – Ephesians 6:1-4
If our faith in Christ is real, it will usually prove itself at home, in our relationships with those who know us best. Children and parents have a responsibility to each other. Children should honour their parents even if the parents are demanding and unfair. Parents should care gently for their children, even if the children are disobedient and unpleasant. Ideally, of course, Christian parents and Christian children will relate to each other with thoughtfulness and love. This will happen if both parents and children put the others’ interests above their own – – that is, if they submit to one another.
There is a difference between obeying and honouring. To obey means to do as one is told; to honour means to respect and love. Children are not commanded to disobey God in obeying their parents. Adult children are not asked to be subservient to domineering parents. Children are to obey while under their parents’ care, but the responsibility to honour parents is for life.
Some societies honour their elders. They respect their wisdom, defer to their authority, and pay attention to their comfort and happiness. This is how Christians should act. Where elders are respected, long life is a blessing, not a burden to them.
The purpose of parental discipline is to help children grow, not to exasperate and provoke them to anger or discouragement (see also Colossians 3:21). Parenting is not easy – – it takes lots of patience to raise children in a loving, Christ-honouring manner. But frustration and anger should not be causes for discipline. Instead, parents should act in love, treating their children as Jesus treats the people he loves. This is vital to children’s development and to their understanding of what Christ is like.
Their economic advantage in ancient culture:
And because the LORD had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. – 1 Samuel 1:6
Hannah had been unable to conceive children, and in Old Testament times, a childless woman was considered a failure. Her barrenness was a social embarrassment for her husband. Children were a very important part of the society’s economic structure. They were a source of labour for the family, and it was their duty to care for their parents in their old age. If a wife could not bear children she was often obligated, by her ancient Middle Eastern custom, to give one of her servant girls to her husband to bear children for her. Although Elkanah could have left Hannah (a husband was permitted to divorce a barren wife), he remained lovingly devoted to her despite social criticism and his rights under civil law.
Is it ever right for them to disobey parents?
Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there – 1 Samuel 19:1-2
Is it ever right to disobey your father, as Jonathan did here? It is clearly a principle of Scripture that when a father instructs a son to break God’s laws, the son should obey God rather than man. This principle assumes that the son is old enough to be accountable and to see through any deception. A son’s role is to be respectful, helpful, and obedient to his father (Ephesians 6:1-3), but not to follow commands or advice that violate God’s laws.
Why David’s sin caused his child to die:
But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die. – 2 Samuel 12:14
Why did this child have to die? This was not a judgment on the child for being conceived out of wedlock, but a judgement on David for his sin. David and Bathsheba deserved to die, but God spared their lives and took the child instead. God still had work for David to do in building the kingdom. Perhaps the child’s death was a greater punishment for David than his own death would have been.
It is also possible that had the child lived, God’s name would have been dishonoured among Israel pagan neighbours. What would they have thought of God who rewards murder and adultery by giving a king a new heir? A baby’s death is tragic, but despising God brings death to entire nations. While God readily forgave David’s sin, he did not negate all its consequences.
David confessed and repented of his sin (12:13), but God’s judgment was that his child would die. The consequences of David’s sin were irreversible. Sometimes an apology isn’t enough. When God forgives us and restores our relationship with him, he doesn’t eliminate all the consequences of our wrongdoing. We may be tempted to say, “If this is wrong, I can always apologise to God,” but we must remember that we may set into motion events with irreversible consequences.
Preparing children to fulfil God’s call:
David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God. But this word of the LORD came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever.’ – 1 Chronicles 22:7-10
God told David he would not be the one to build the temple. Instead the task would be left to his son Solomon. David graciously accepted this “no” from God. He was not jealous of the fact that his son would have the honour of building God’s temple, but instead made preparations for Solomon to carry out his task. Similarly, we should take steps now to prepare the way for our children to find and fulfil God’s purpose. Sooner or later our children will have to make their own decisions, but we can help by supplying them with the proper tools: showing them how to pray and study God’s word, the difference between right and wrong, and the importance of church involvement.
A blessing from God:
Ammiel the sixth,
Issachar the seventh
and Peullethai the eighth.
(For God had blessed Obed-Edom.) – 1 Chronicles 26:5
“God had blessed Obed-Edom.” The status of children in society had fluctuated throughout history; sometimes that are highly esteemed, and sometimes abused and cheated. But Scripture shows no such vacillation – children are called a blessing from God, and God never views them as a burden (Psalm 127:3-5; Mark 10:13-15).
Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate. – Psalm 127:3-5
Too often children are seen as liabilities rather than assets. But the Bible calls children “a heritage from the LORD”, a reward. We can learn valuable lessons from their inquisitive minds and trusting spirits. Those who view children as distraction or nuisance should instead see them as an opportunity to shape the future. We dare not treat children as an inconvenience when God values them so highly.
©Kingsway International Church 1973.